By Jayantha Dhanapala*

This is an expanded version of thoughts expressed by the author at a conference organized by the International Peace Institute (IPI) with the Foreign Ministry of Iceland on October 10-11 to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Summit meeting between U.S. President Ronald Reagan and his Soviet counterpart Mikhail Gorbachev.

REYKJAVIK (IDN) - Richard Rhodes, the famous author of several books on nuclear weapons, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning “The Making of the Atomic Bomb” (1986), has written a play entitled “Reykjavik” dramatizing the famous Summit. At the conclusion he has Gorbachev say, “Reykjavik is not a failure – it’s a breakthrough”.

- Photo: 2021

World’s Largest Free Trade Area Opens for Business in Africa

By Kester Kenn Klomegah*

MOSCOW (IDN) — The opening of the world’s largest free trade area in Africa on January 1, 2021, is of great interest to Russia. It comes more than one year after the first Russia-Africa Summit in Sochi on the Black Sea. As Russian President Vladimir Putin then said: “The event really opened a new page in relations between Russia and the states of the African continent.”

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) spanning 54 states over the next years has the potential to unite more than 1.3 billion people in a $2.5 trillion economic bloc.

With Zambia submitting the instruments of ratification of the agreement to the African Union Commission, two-thirds of the African Union (AU) members have fully acceded to the agreement.

Only 18 AU member states are left to comply with the requirement to join the free trade area. They are Benin, Botswana, Burundi, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Morocco, Mozambique, Seychelles, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Tanzania.

At the virtual 34th Ordinary Session of the AU Assembly held on February 6-7, Felix-Antoine Tshisekedi, the President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, took over the rotating AU Chairmanship for the period 2021 to 2022.

It follows from the above list provided by the Africa Union Commission that the Democratic Republic of Congo has itself not ratified the agreement.

The AfCFTA agreement entered into force on May 30, 2019 after the treaty was ratified by 22 countries — the minimum number required by the treaty.

It has the potential to generate a range of benefits through supporting trade creation, structural transformation, productive employment and poverty reduction.

The AfCFTA opens up more opportunities for both local African and foreign investors from around the world.

The official start of trading on January 1 signalled the commencement of Africa’s journey to market integration, after it was postponed by six months 2020 following the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

Only Eritrea out of the continent’s 55 countries is yet to sign the agreement. Zambia’s ratification comes as the country finalizes its national AfCFTA strategy, which will guide its implementation of the agreement.

Through its African Trade Policy Centre (ATPC), the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) of the United Nations has been working with the African Union Commission and member states to deepen Africa’s trade integration and effectively implement the agreement through policy advocacy and national strategy development.

The ECA also works with the International Trade Centre (ITC), United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), and independent trade experts with the financial support of the European Union to assist with the implementation of the agreement.

The African Union spearheads Africa’s development and integration in close collaboration with African Union Member States, the Regional Economic Communities and African citizens.

The AU vision is to accelerate progress towards an integrated, prosperous and inclusive Africa, at peace with itself, playing a dynamic role in the continental and global arena, effectively driven by an accountable, efficient and responsive Commission. [IDN-InDepthNews – 19 February 2021]

* Kester Kenn Klomegah is a frequent and passionate contributor to IDN. During his professional career as a researcher specialising in Russia-Africa policy, which spans nearly two decades, he has been detained and questioned several times by federal security services for reporting facts. Most of his well-resourced articles are reprinted in a number of reputable foreign media.

Photo: Collage of images from the African Union and German agency GIZ.

IDN is flagship agency of the Non-profit International Press Syndicate.

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